The Lyttelton theatre is a big space for one man to fill but Cillian Murphy could have filled it three times over with his towering performance in Misterman.
Murphy plays God-fearing Tommy Magill, a troubled but well-meaning young man from the Irish isle of Inishfree, who is intent on imposing God’s will on his reluctant neighbours. Holed up in what looks like a warehouse, his only companions are his memories, a stack of tape-recorders and the sound of a dog that just won’t stop barking.
Murphy inhabits dozens of characters throughout the play, bouncing from one to the next with an astonishing energy, reliving snippets of conversation from his seemingly endless recordings. His pursuits start off mundane – taking a trip to pick up Jammy Dodgers; chatting over the fence to his neighbours – but even the most insignificant events become confused with his feelings of abandonment in the wake of his father’s death and his belief that must do God’s work . The sparse stage is a remarkable feat in itself, with piles of junk and glowing crucifixes receding into the distance, warping and shifting as Tommy’s mind becomes increasingly fractured.
The issues Misterman explores are common – madness, loneliness, alienation and loss – but Murphy injects them with an razor sharp immediacy; he is captivating.
First published in City A.M.